NHL Rumor Mill – December 27, 2017
The NHL holiday trade freeze ends at midnight tonight. Here’s the latest on the Penguins, Islanders, Bruins and Canadiens in the rumor mill.
ANOTHER MOVE COMING FOR THE PENGUINS?
SPORTSNET: The ongoing struggles of the defending Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins could force general manager Jim Rutherford to consider a roster shakeup. Insider Nick Kypreos said he’s heard defenseman Kris Letang’s name bandied about. The blueliner has struggled since returning from neck surgery last season. The fact the Pens won the Cup last season without Letang could make moving the rearguard more palatable for Rutherford. He’s got four more seasons left on his contract with an annual cap hit of $7.25 million and the Pens would love to shed some salary.
If the Pens shop Letang, Elliotte Friedman believes they’ll want two forwards, a center and a winger, in return. Blueliner Ian Cole also remains a potential trade candidate. Letang’s health remains a concern.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cited Friedman’s appearance last Friday on Edmonton’s 630 CHED discussing the possibility of the Penguins and Buffalo Sabres becoming a trade match. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if Rutherford has Sabres’ winger Evander Kane on his radar.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks can see Ottawa Senators center Derick Brassard “energizing the Penguins and thriving in Pittsburgh”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Moving Letang’s hefty contract is difficult, but as the Dion Phaneuf trade in Feb. 2016 proved, it’s not impossible to trade a defenseman with a big contract and a modified no-trade clause. The difference between the two, however, is the concern over Letang’s health. Since 2008-09, he was frequently sidelined by numerous injuries, as well as a heart ailment that put him on the shelf for 26 games in 2013-14. That could be the biggest trade impediment.
As for pursuing Kane, Rutherford could face tough odds prying him away from the Sabres right now. Buffalo GM Jason Botterill could retain the pending UFA left winger until the Feb. 26 trade deadline in hopes of driving up his value in the trade market. The Penguins won’t be the only club chasing him. The Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks are two Western clubs that could have serious interest in Kane.
Brassard would certainly address the Penguins need for a skilled two-way third-line center. However, Rutherford would have to shed salary to make room for his $5 million annual cap hit through 2018-19.
Despite the New York Islanders’ successful arena bid for Belmont Park, Nick Kypreos reports there’s been no contract talks slated between the New York Islanders and John Tavares heading into the New Year. That could be bad news for Isles fans. Kypreos said the real feeling is Tavares could wait this out until after the season and perhaps examine the free-agent market in July.
NEWSDAY: Arthur Staple recently reported the New York Islanders’ goaltending situations “is untenable”. He pointed out the current tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss combined to allow 123 goals in 36 games with no shutouts. Looking at possible trade options for GM Garth Snow, Staple lists Detroit’s Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek, Buffalo’s Robin Lehner, Arizona’s Antti Raanta and Vancouver’s Anders Nilsson as possible trade options, as well as their flaws.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yes, Tavares could test the UFA market in July. He could also just as easily re-sign with the Islanders. It wouldn’t be surprising if he waits to see how this season plays out. If he feels the Isles are serious about building a winner around him, I believe he’ll stay put.
Of the Wings goalies, Mrazek is the trade candidate. While the Wings could be willing to pick up part of his $4 million salary-cap hit, the decline in his play screams “buyer beware!”. I concur with Staple that Lehner could be the best of this bunch. He could improve playing on a better club but his injury history is a concern. I don’t see the Coyotes or Canucks moving Raanta or Nilsson. A better option could San Jose Sharks backup Aaron Dell, but the asking price could be a scoring winger.
LATEST ON THE BRUINS
THE BOSTON GLOBE: Fluto Shinzawa reported Saturday the Boston Bruins have a right wing and a left-side defenseman on their post-holiday freeze wish list. He suggests Thomas Vanek, who’s on a one-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks, could address that right-wing need.
Finding a left-side blueliner, however, could be more difficult. The Bruins have always thought highly of Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifin but the asking price would be expensive, perhaps Brandon Carlo either prospects or draft picks. Shinzawa lists Los Angeles’ Alec Martinez, Detroit’s Jonathan Ericsson or the New York Rangers’ Brendan Smith as more reasonable targets, though they’re not cheap in salary.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Bruins target Vanek they might have to wait until closer to the trade deadline to land him. As long as the Canucks remain in playoff contention they’ll be reluctant to move him.
There was talk earlier this season of the Kings moving a defenseman like Martinez if they felt they needed to add a scorer. So far, however, they seem to be doing fine in that regard.
If the Bruins are interested in Ericsson I daresay the Wings would love to shed his $4.25 million cap hit through 2019-20, but he also carries a full no-trade clause this season and he might not want to go to Boston. Smith is in the first year of a four-year deal worth $4.35 million annually and has a 15-team trade list. Given his struggles this season with the Blueshirts, I don’t think the Bruins will take that gamble.
NO INTEREST IN FUCALE
TVA SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens attempted to trade goaltender Zachary Fucale in recent weeks but couldn’t find any takers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yet another reason why the Canadiens probably won’t shop Charlie Lindgren. It appears the once-promising Fucale will never reach the NHL on a full-time basis.